All they want to do is escape poverty, but they end up in the hands of sex traffickers. Women from Romania in particular, sometimes fall prey to criminal networks while seeking a better life in Germany.

And for the most part, the criminals go undetected – because sex work is a perfectly legal job in Germany, provided it’s consensual. But estimates suggest that up to 90 percent of the women are forced into the sex trade. Human beings are a lucrative commodity for organized crime. Compared to drugs or weapons, they cost very little. And they can be sold not just once, but repeatedly, every day. Young women seeking to escape poverty in their home countries end up in German brothels. Most of them come from Romania or Bulgaria. Unscrupulous human traffickers lure them with the promise of a well-paid job only to force them into sex slavery. Some of them sell their services for the price of a pack of cigarettes. This sexual exploitation is facilitated by a law that legalizes sex work in Germany, defining it as a service provided voluntarily. It’s not clear just how many women are coerced into the trade. Sascha, for example, was forced to serve 20 to 30 clients a day, until she managed to escape with the help of “Amalie”, an advisory and support service for women in the industry, based in the German city of Mannheim. “Amalie” provided her with accommodation and a job so that she was able to build a new life for herself.


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